Schedule Analysis For Every NBA Team Up Until December 1st

How much does the start of the season matter? There are examples like last season, in which the Rockets and Trail Blazers (both 7-11 last December 1st) eventually turn it around and make the Playoffs. Conversely, the Chicago Bulls started out 10-5 before collapsing and missing the playoffs. In general, each team will play 16-20 games from the start of the season up until December 1st with this year’s schedule.

I thought it would be interesting to examine the schedule of each team from the start of the season up to December 1st and see how challenging or soft their assorted schedules are. Upon looking at all of these schedules, I came up with a best case and a worst case scenario in terms of record for each team (alphabetically) for when we hit December 1st. As the season progresses, I’ll do this for every quarter of the season.

Opening disclaimer: The schedule will revert back near the mean for every team. So the teams with tougher schedules to open the season will see it ease up as the season moves on, and vice versa.

However, for teams shuffling new players, the road games, strength of opponents and back-to-backs can certainly can raise the degree of difficulty. For example, Houston plays 7 of 8 to open the season on the road. Chicago has a stretch of 8 of 10 on the road in November. Preseason darlings Utah play 12 road games and 5 back-to-backs up until December 1st. While every team can turn their season around, the pressure is turned up with a slow start.

Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta has a manageable start to the season, with two games apiece against Washington and Philly and home games against the Lakers and Sacramento. However, Atlanta plays five back-to-backs prior to December 1st, and 11 road games vs. 8 home games. This includes a stretch of 7 of 8 on the road in the back-half of November, finishing the month with the following road trip: at Indiana, at Utah, at Los Angeles Lakers, at Golden State and at Phoenix.

Atlanta was a team that relied a lot on continuity the last few seasons, and is now working in two enigmatic players in Dwight Howard and Denis Schroder into the starting five. Folks will learn a lot about Atlanta and their expectations by December 1st:

Best Case: 11-8
Worst Case: 7-12

Boston Celtics

The Celtics play 10 road games vs. 8 home games, and have three back-to-backs. They play Brooklyn, Chicago and Detroit twice, and play arguably the three best teams in the NBA in the Warriors, Spurs and Cavaliers each one time. However, they get the Warriors on a home Friday night (you may remember the double overtime game last season in this same scenario) and San Antonio at 1:00 PM ET on Black Friday (November 25th).

With the talent that Boston has assembled with Brad Stevens at the helm, the floor is high for this team.

Best Case: 14-4
Worst Case: 9-9

Brooklyn Nets

Just sit back and hope these guys develop a little bit. Seriously though, Kenny Atkinson is a great hire and Jeremy Lin is going to score a ton of points. But this is not a season for wins.

Best Case: 4-13
Worst Case: 1-16

Charlotte Hornets

Reminder that Charlotte was 30-11 at home last season with a +6.4 point differential.   Charlotte has four back-to-backs, but plays 10 home games vs. 8 road games. The road games include at Milwaukee, at Brooklyn, at New Orleans and at Minnesota, and they have two games apiece with Memphis and New York.

I picked Charlotte to regress a bit this season, but they’ll have a chance to start strong with this opening slate.

Best Case: 13-5
Worst Case: 8-10

Chicago Bulls

Chicago opens with 11 road games vs. only 6 games at home to open the season. While working  in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, what can go wrong?

From November 9th to November 25hth, Chicago plays 8 of 10 on the road, and then gets four days off before hosting the Lakers on the 30th, While they do get road tilts against Brooklyn, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Lakers, they also play the following road contests: Boston, Indiana, Atlanta, Miami, Portland, Utah and Los Angeles Clippers. Things can open sour very quickly for this Bulls team.

Best Case: 10-7
Worst Case: 5-12

Cleveland Cavaliers

It’s good to be the champs.

Cleveland only plays 16 games total and has one-back-to-back from October 25th to November 30th. They have 6 road games…and that includes 2 in Philadelphia and 1 in Milwaukee. If they wanted to, Cleveland could run the table to open the year.

Best Case: 16-0
Worst Case: 13-3

Dallas Mavericks

It’ll be a challenging start to the season as Dallas breaks in Harrison Barnes.

Dallas only has two back-to-backs through December 1st, but has 10 road games vs. 7 home games. The road games are against the following: Indiana, Houston, Utah, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State, New York, Boston, Orlando, San Antonio…and Cleveland. As of right now, there’s only one game I can pick out (Lakers) in which Dallas will be favored.

All of that being said, we pick against Dallas and Rick Carlisle at our own peril as every year they find a way. It won’t be easy to start the year for Dallas though, that’s for sure.

Best Case: 11-6
Worst Case: 6-11

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets are a team on the way up, and while they had moments last season, they were remarkably inconsistent. They had losing streaks of 8 games and 6 games, and two separate losing streaks of 3 games.

This Nuggets team has an even split with home and road games to open the season. They play Utah, Portland and Toronto twice apiece in this span, making up 1/3rd of their games. The major test will come on a five-game trip from October 31st to November 8th in which they play at Toronto, at Minnesota, at Detroit, at Boston and at Memphis. Another major losing streak like we saw last season and they’ll be in a tough spot. If they can tread water, they’ll have a chance to make some noise.

Best Case: 9-9
Worst Case: 4-14

Detroit Pistons

Detroit was 26-15 at home last year with a +5.0 point differential, and had some very impressive wins. They open this season with 9 home games and 11 road games, including 5 back-to-backs. With road games at Toronto, at Los Angeles Clippers, at San Antonio, at Cleveland, at Oklahoma City and at Boston, they’ll need to clean up on their home games to open the year. The bright side: the schedule lightens as the season moves on.

Best case: 13-7
Worst case: 8-12

Golden State Warriors

Outlined here…long story short, nothing matters for the Warriors until June.

Best Case: Everyone healthy.
Worst Case: Not everyone healthy.

Houston Rockets

D’Antoni ball returns, but the Rockets jump into the season with 12 road games vs. 6 home games up to December 1st and that includes 7 out of their 8 first games on the road. They play Dallas twice, Portland twice, San Antonio twice, and Utah twice. Silver lining: only two back-to-backs over this time span.

The Rockets have one of the biggest ranges of any team out of the gate, but if they tread water in November, things will get easier the rest of the year.

Best Case: 13-5
Worst Case: 6-12

Indiana Pacers

For a team with a new coach who is trying to implement a new system, the schedule is in place for the Pacers to start really, really fast.

Indiana has 12 home games against 7 road games, with only 3 back-to-backs. This includes Philadelphia twice, Brooklyn twice and then the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee and Phoenix once. They get Golden State, Cleveland and Los Angeles Clippers, but those three games are at home.

Best Case: 13-5
Worst Case: 9-9

LA Clippers

The Clippers play 10 road games vs. 9 at home, with 4 back-to-backs. The road schedule looks manageable, but two of BSB’s are at Memphis / at San Antonio (11/4 – 11/5) and at Oklahoma City / at Minnesota (11/11-11/12). They play the Pistons, Grizzlies and Nets twice apiece in the month. Overall, a very manageable slate for the veteran Clips.

Best Case: 16-3
Worst Case: 11-8

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lake Show opens with 20 games prior to December 1st, an even split of home and away games and three back-to-backs. However, they draw the short end of the straw having to play Golden State three times in the month of November. They also play Oklahoma City, Chicago, New Orleans and Atlanta twice apiece, but we’re not exactly sure what to expect from those teams.

Outside of the Warriors trifecta, this isn’t bad for the young Lakers, but wins aren’t likely to pile up either way.

Best Case: 7-13
Worst Case: 2-18

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are a bit of a mystery team this season, but until they actually miss the Playoffs, its impossible to count this club out

Memphis has a relatively even schedule, with 9 home games, 10 road games and 4 back-to-backs. They play four teams twice: Minnesota, Miami, Clippers and Charlotte. The games with Minnesota, Miami and Charlotte will be a barometer of sorts as they’re well coached, solid teams within playoff contention. If Memphis goes 4-2 or 5-1 against those teams in November, they’ll be on their way.

Best Case: 13-6
Worst Case: 8-11

Miami Heat

Miami opens with 9 home games, 9 road games and 2 back-to-backs up to December 1st. They play the Spurs twice but get those games out of the way three weeks in, and have a slew of their road games against teams around their level (Orlando, Washington, Philly, Detroit, Memphis and Denver).

Overall, a pretty soft opening for the Heat and a chance to get off to a positive start.

Best Case: 12-6
Worst Case: 8-10

Milwaukee Bucks

I haven’t been driving the Bucks optimism bus, but they have quite possibly the softest opening schedule in the league. They only play 16 games, with 10 of them being at home. They get their home date with the Warriors for the second year in a row on a Saturday when the Warriors are playing in Boston the night before. Of those 16 games, 10 are against the Eastern Conference, and games against Western Conference teams include Sacramento, Dallas, New Orleans (twice) and Memphis. Finally, Milwaukee has three different stretches in November where they have three days off in-between games.

No excuses if Milwaukee gets off to a poor start.

Best Case: 10-6
Worst Case: 7-9

Minnesota Timberwolves

Thibs and the gang have every opportunity to make some early noise with an even split of home / road games and three back-to-backs. Funniest subplot: they play Memphis 3 times in 24 days and Thibs is going to be calling our Memphis’ sets before Mike Conley does. All in all, very manageable early slate.

Best Case: 11-7
Worst Case: 8-10

New Orleans Pelicans*

In the first two weeks of the season, the Pels play Golden State twice, San Antonio once and have three back-to-backs…alright! Outside of that brutal start, they play 10 home games and 9 road games, but finish the month of November with the 5 back-to-backs. To be fair, they get the Lakers twice and Milwaukee twice, but either way…not great Bob!

Best Case: 8-11
Worst Case: 4-15

*Editor’s note: I still don’t like the name Pelicans. 

New York Knicks

The Knicks won’t have any excuses for a slow start as they have a navigable schedule in the early going. They play 10 home games, 8 road games with 4 back-to-backs, and do not travel further west than Chicago until November 30th (at Minnesota). Sure, they have to open in Cleveland on ring night…but outside of that, this is a pretty favorable Knicks opening slate.

Best Case: 12-6
Worst Case: 9-9

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Russ Revenge tour should kick off in roaring fashion as the first three games are at Philadelphia, vs Phoenix and vs. Lakers. It gets a little trickier after that, with road games at the Clippers and then night two of a back to back in Golden State for the reunion game which seems…cruel. ANYWAY, the Thunder play 12 games at home, 8 on the road and have 4 back-to-backs. This is a team that’ll have a higher floor than most for wins rolling into December 1st.

Best Case: 15-5
Worst Case: 11-9

Orlando Magic

Covered this here. Bullish on Orlando.

Best Case: 13-6
Worst Case: 10-9

Philadelphia 76ers

Philly opens with a whopping 13 home games against 6 road games, with 4 back-to-backs. We don’t really know what to expect from Philly, so even with the favorable schedule it’s tough to predict too many wins. But lets just say…more than 10???

Best Case: 5-14
Worst Case: 2-17

Phoenix Suns

Phoenix should be a fun team, and a sneaky league-pass watch, but they’re going to have some games where they are completely steamrolled. Devin Booker will be tight though.

Phoenix opens with 11 road games, 8 home games and 4 back-to-backs. The toughest stretch will be 11/13 – 11/23 when they play: at Golden, State, at Denver, at Indiana, At Philadelphia, at Washington and at Orlando. That game in Philly will be appointment viewing!

Best Case: 7-12
Worst Case: 3-16

Portland Trail Blazers

Portland was 28-13 at home vs. 16-25 on the road last season, so Rip City enjoyed the friendly home confines.

Portland opens with 9 home games, 10 road games and 4 back-to-backs. They’ll be tested right out of the gate as they host Utah and the Clippers, head to Denver, and then host the Warriors before kicking off a 3 game road trip. Portland struggled out of the gate last season, so they’ll be a team to watch in the early going.

Best Case: 14-6
Worst Case: 8-12

Sacramento Kings

Sacramento opens their new arena with 9 home games, to contrast with 10 away games and 4 back-to-backs. They actually open their new building on the second night of a back-to-back against the Spurs. Not great.

However, after a 5 game road trip from 10/31 to 11/6, they only leave the state of California once (November 11th in Portland) prior to heading into Brooklyn on the 27th. Also, they have four days off after that road game in Portland. All in all, a chance for the Kings to be above .500 come December 1st.

Best Case: 10-9
Worst Case: 6-13

San Antonio Spurs

Spurs are the Spurs. This exercise is basically useless for them.

Best Case: 18-1
Worst Case: 14-4

Toronto Raptors

The Raps have an even split of home and road games, with a 5-game road trip from the 18th to the 25th. Outside of at OKC, at LAC and @ CLE…It’s a not a very taxing opening slate for the Raps.

Best Case: 13-5
Worst Case: 9-9

Utah Jazz

The preseason darlings of the NBA don’t have the ideal start, with 8 home games, 12 road games and 5 back-to-backs. This includes Denver twice, Houston twice and San Antonio twice. It also includes a stretch of 5 games in 7 nights on the East Coast. For all the noise about Utah as a top-4 seed, it won’t be easy to start the year with this slate and no Gordon Hayward.

Best Case: 12-8
Worst Case: 7-13

Washington Wizards

The Wizards are a bit of a mystery this year, but they have a chance to start strong with 10 home games vs 7 road games, and 3 back-to-backs. This includes Atlanta twice and Orlando twice; how the Wizards play against similar Eastern Conference teams like that will be a solid barometer for the remainder of the year.

Best Case: 10-7
Worst Case: 8-9

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